Benchmade ERT-1

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posted on October 29, 2010
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Operating a motor vehicle is a daily occurrence for most of us. Regardless of your destination—work, favorite hunting stand, range, grocery store or to pick up the kids—statistically, the more time spent behind the wheel the greater the chance of being involved in, or coming upon, an accident. Under most circumstances the care of those involved should be left to state-certified first responders, but when faced with fire or water submersion, immediate extrication may be required to save a life. The Benchmade Emergency Response Tool (ERT-1) was designed for these situations.

The mechanics of an accident usually determine the extent of damage to the vehicle, as well as dictate the extrication method used by rescue personnel. Structural damage incurred during a collision, or pressure surrounding a submerging automobile, often make opening a door time consuming at best, and impossible at other times. Under such conditions, the most efficient method to reach the victim, or exit the vehicle yourself, is through the glass. The trouble is, automobile glass is typically very difficult to break, especially in the confines of a vehicle. It is for this reason the ERT-1 has a spring-loaded glass punch, which is designed to quickly shatter glass with a firm, pressured push.

Another dilemma is safe removal from seat restraints—a dangerous undertaking with a standard pocketknife. For this task, the ERT-1 has a folding, stainless steel locking hook with a sharp inner surface that is protected to prevent injuring the victim while cutting restraints. It is designed to cut non-metallic, fibrous or pliable material such as seat belts, rope (up to 3⁄8-inch thick), webbing and clothing. To ensure the user can see where and what they are cutting, the ERT-1 has a fully submersible LED light that illuminates the edged portion of the hook. The black, on/off button is located above the LED for easy access.

Housing the tools is a highly visible yellow molded-thermoplastic handle with horizontal ribs and built-in ergonomic finger guard, both of which are designed to enhance purchase during wet conditions. It has 420J stainless steel liners, a removable steel carrying clip and comes with a nylon sheath.

Volunteers willing to subject their vehicles to testing were scarce, so I resorted to several pieces of tempered glass, which were thicker than automobile window glass, and sample seatbelt straps sent by Benchmade. As expected, depressing the spring-loaded window punch instantly shattered the glass, clearly illustrating the tool's effectiveness at defeating the potentially deadly barrier. And as for the sample seat restraints, the hooked blade zipped through them with little resistance, leaving clean edges in the process. An ordinary pocketknife used for the same task worked, but it did not cut as fast or cleanly as did the ERT-1, and then you still have to worry about unintentional injuries to the victim. Best of all, the ERT-1 weighs only 3.6 ounces and is 4.67 inches closed, so it fits easily in a glove compartment, a center console, a pant pocket or clips to your belt.

As a former emergency medical technician, I have had extensive experience with a host of tools aimed at saving lives. Some are good, others no so much. Without hesitation, I recommend the Benchmade ERT-1.

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